Start Introduction Golden Triangle Luang Prabang Phonsavan Vientiane Savannakhet Stung Treng Angkor


A few years ago I was standing at the Mekong river shore in the very south of China and wondered where the river was heading. So I got the idea to one day follow the river downstream.

In February 2007 I then was ready to traveled through Laos and Cambodia along the river in a four week journey. I started from a small mountain village, Huay Xai, in the north of Laos down to Phnom Penh in the south of Cambodia.

On the way back to Bangkok I had to stop by at the famous ruins at Angkor Wat . They are close to Siam Reap in the  north west of Cambodia.

Bus and boat tour
Mainly I traveled by bus and there are not really any options. Motorbike could be an option, but it's really dangerous cause the roads in Laos could be in bad shape. And in Cambodia? Even worse!

The only exception from the bus was the initial trip in the northern mountain from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang that was made by boat. Not really any options to that either. 

Need of time
Four weeks is a rather short time for this trip if you want to enjoy the ride. Bus rides goes quite slowly, and motor breakdown are not unusually. You could easily spend four weeks just traveling around in Laos. It's a beautiful and interesting country.

Pleasant reading, Hans-Peter, Sweden

Along the Mekong River 2007


The Mekong River is the life nerve of southeast Asia serving as transport route as well as distributing life giving water.


Transports in Laos
Transports could be slow in this area. In southern Laos I was experience a bus breakdown. No very unusual. We had to wait for an hour or so of a new bus to arrive.

Bring water and patience.


Transports in Cambodia
The Cambodian roads are in terrible shape. Even if some efforts now are being made to rebuild the infrastructure of the country, there are still much to do.

Complicating this issue is the corruption. The picture at the right is from the road going between Siam Reap and the Thai border.   A very important trade route as well as personal transport visiting the area of Angkor Wat. Nothing more than a dirt road and sometimes no road at all.

The Cambodian airline company were responsible for the Angkor Wat tourism for many years, and they they seem to have stopped any rebuilding of the road. Of course they wanted all travelers to go by air!


Buddhism vs. Buddhism
Traveling in the southeast of Asia you sometimes get confused by the variations and blend of cultures and religions.

Though Buddhism is the most common religion, even the Buddhism is divided in  different branches. In the south there is a different Buddhism than in China.

In Laos and Cambodia the Theravada branch is ruling. Them self they clam that this is the original Buddhism. It might as well be, it definitely has a more ancient touch, with objects from Hindu and animist cultures.


Stats could be boring but sometimes also very helpful in understanding, for example in the relation between nations. Each year the UN publish stats and comments about the development in health and humanity around the world. Probably this is the most reliable stats available. They also rates all nations in a human development index, with no 1 being the best.

In the table below I've choose four countries related to the Mekong River and a couple of western countries as reference.  The figures in the table comes from the Human Development Report 2007 (data from 2004) published by the UN Development Program (UNDP). There are a couple of exceptions, as noted, with data taken from the CIA World Fact Book 2007. If you are interested in more fact like this, it's all on the web. Just Google around. Okay, I help you out for a start:

>UNDP-Human Development Report
>UNDP-Human Development Report (stats by countries)
>CIA World Fact Book

As a short analysis, even if not as bad as many African nations, it's easy to see that the countries around the Mekong River are very poor, both in national production and people living on a very low income. China, of course, is getting more and moor developed and now plays in the division of the middleclass nations.

But from the tree poorer countries in the table the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is very high indicating that the healthcare system and the infrastructure are in bad shape. Cambodia  has got the highest GDP per capita of the three, but also the highest IMR and highest poverty rate, almost  three quarter of the population are living on less than 2 $ a day. Obviously the resources in the country are not very equal spread.

Please give it a couple of minutes to reflect on the distribution of resources in the world.


Human Development Report

GDP/capita(PPP US$) 1)

Infant Mortality Rate (%)

Expected Lifetime (year)


Population (million)

People living on less than
1 and 2 US$ per day (%)

Population per square km 1)

Human Development Index
Sweden 31.600 0,3


9,0 - 22 5
USA 43.500 0,7 77,5 298,4 - 33 8
China 7.600 2,6 71,9 1.308 17 - 47 141 81
Cambodia 2.600 9,7 56,5 13,8 34 - 77 79 129
Burma 1.800 7,6 60,5 50,0 no data 72 130
Laos 2.100 6,5 55,1 5,8 27 - 74 28 133
1) CIA Worldfactbook 2007 (data from 2006)



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Hans-Peter Nilsson